If the ghost of James Joyce stumbled drunk into an Irish dive to sweet talk a pretty barmaid, his speech would betray the contents of Look!..The Chuckle Book; which is not to degrade the book or the dry wit that wrote it. For, on this particular night, I happened to be the ‘bloke’ sitting next to Joyce’s Halloween double — and truly, I laughed my Ulysses off!
Cormac G. McDermott, a man who jokingly says, “I went to the doctor and he diagnosed me as a genius,” has an uncanny capacity to tell consecutive jokes for one hundred and forty-two pages. His compendium of Irish humor, replete with Cockney rhymes and clever puns, possesses a sort of limerick-like quality. This collection of jokes, ranging from the lewd to the light-hearted to the somewhat sacrilegious–and then descending head over heels into the downright dirty–is definitely a book for mature readers.
Composed of eleven different chapters, the work lacks a sense of artistic coherence. Although each chapter deals with a unique subject, the author’s scattershot style is sometimes difficult to follow; as one joke–lasting no longer than two short paragraphs (or often sentences)–is immediately interrupted by another; and so on, for the entirety of the book. It is a joke book without any clear continuity or storyline.
Yet, with that said, McDermott does indeed possess the gift of gab. In addition, the cadence of his jokes, along with the colloquial language with which he tells them, is truly comical. Once I considered Look!..The Chuckle Book! like a barroom buddy, or a witty Irishman who happened to occupy the seat next to me in a pub, I became absolutely entranced in the book. After several pages I found myself–naturally, somehow absorbing the humor into my own comic sensibility–rattling off a few jokes in the same spirit as my narrator. Unconsciously, with little effort on my part, I was able to craft one crude joke after another; a skill I did not have until reading the work. Which may be a good or a bad thing; but most certainly is a tribute to McDermott’s contagious style and his ability to turn a phrase.
“I used to drink in the Cedar Lounge, Raheny,” Cormac writes, “back during the early Nineties when a bloke called Paddy Monks walked in with his family followed by another guy named Sean Monks and his family also… I turned to my pals and quipped ‘if any more Monks walk into this place they’ll have to re-name this boozer The Monastery’!” True to the intention expressed in the title, this book will definitely make you chuckle; or perhaps even cause you to double over in laughter. It reads like a stand-up routine put on paper.
Again: if you approach the work less as a book, and more as a garrulous and comical (and drunk) travelling companion–and perhaps order a pint of Guinness in a pub, which would enhance the experience–than reading Look!..The Chuckle Book! will no doubt prove quite entertaining. With a book like this you don’t need to visit Temple Bar in Dublin; you merely need to agree to spend an hour or two with a very charismatic Irish comedian, who will take you all over the place (literally). When I’m feeling depressed in the future, I will probably pick this book up and enjoy McDermott’s company again.